BY Up Helly Aa night, the temperature had dropped to around two degrees. Squads and spectators gathered at Hillhead under a starlit sky, waiting for the torch-lit procession to begin.
The Jarl Squad marched on to Hillhead to appreciative roars from the crowd and the melodic strains of Lerwick Brass Band. Light-up illuminated the usual weird and wonderful assortment of guizers: suits ranged from fish to hot dogs to former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell.
As the galley was wheeled along Hillhead, Jarl John Nicolson (AKA Thorstein Egilson, the youngest son of the Icelandic warrior-poet Egil Skallagrimsson) made an impressive silhouette, framed against the galley and the hazy torch-light.
The streets were thronged with onlookers: local spectators, photographers chasing the perfect capture and visitors who had travelled from far and wide to witness the festival first-hand.
Andrea Webber, bedecked in Viking plaits and a helmet said she was “delighted” with the evening so far. “I’ve come from Dornach. I brought my husband here for his birthday. I’m planning to come back next year!”
As the evening reached its fiery climax, the flames from the galley rose in a vertical column undisturbed by a breath of wind. The calm night brought everything into sharp definition: a suitably impressive burning for the festival’s hundredth anniversary.
As the torches were thrown onto the galley, a distraught voice from a young onlooker called out: “I don’t want it to burn! It’s too beautiful!” But burn it did. It was a mesmerising burning, worthy of Up Helly Aa’s hundredth anniversary.
The burning over, the crowds began to disperse. As the Jarl Squad marched purposefully from the King Harald Street park, Jarl John Nicolson reflected on the day so far.
“It’s been brilliant, just brilliant,” he said with a wide smile. “The burning was the highlight, I doot, but it’s all been great. It started off a bit wet this morning, but the weather tonight, well, it’s just made it. And now we’ve got the night ahead to look forward to.”
Genevieve White/ Photos and video by Hans J Marter/Shetland News
Become a supporter of Shetland News
Shetland News is asking its many readers to consider start paying for their dose of the latest local news delivered straight to their PC, tablet or mobile phone.
Journalism comes at a price and because that price is not being paid in today’s rapidly changing media world, most publishers - national and local - struggle financially despite very healthy audience figures.
Most online publishers have started charging for access to their websites, others have chosen a different route. Shetland News currently has over 540 supporters who are all making small voluntary financial contributions. All funds go towards covering our cost and improving the service further.
Your contribution will ensure Shetland News can: -
- Bring you the headlines as they happen;
- Stay editorially independent;
- Give a voice to the community;
- Grow site traffic further;
- Research and publish more in-depth news, including more Shetland Lives features.
If you appreciate what we do and feel strongly about impartial local journalism, then please become a supporter of Shetland News by either making a single payment or monthly subscription.
Support us from as little as £3 per month – it only takes a minute to sign up. Thank you.Support Shetland News